After fires, Europe’s leading politicians in the Mediterranean promise climate cooperation

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The heads of state and government of the European Mediterranean countries agreed on Friday at a meeting in Athens after massive forest fires that devastated parts of southern Europe to expand cooperation against climate change.

They expressed their “firm belief that urgent and ambitious global action is needed at national, regional and local levels,” said a joint statement released after the talks began.

“It is absolutely the right step at the right time, because we all see that climate change is having a major impact on the Mediterranean region,” said the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

The talks were attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, as well as leading representatives and high-ranking representatives from Malta, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Croatia and Portugal.

The participants reaffirmed their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global global climate pact, called for closer integration of climate protection policy across Europe and further cooperation within the framework of the EU’s transnational civil protection mechanism.

Forest fires

Forest fires raged in the region during the summer heat waves. Greece was particularly hard hit as the country’s worst heat wave in decades fueled hundreds of forest fires that stretched its fire-fighting resources and sought international aid. The fires destroyed more than 1,000 square kilometers of Greek woodland with major damage on the island of Evia and parts of southern Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed rising global temperatures for the fires. Subsequently, his government created a ministry for climate change and promised to make adaptation to deteriorating weather conditions a political priority.

Talks also focus on the Afghanistan crisis and migration, with Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta on the main routes smugglers use to bring people into the European Union.

Concerned by recent events in Afghanistan, Greece has made it clear that it will continue to tighten its stance on migration. It has already stepped up border security, deployed technology, and stepped up land and sea patrols to keep potential migrants out.

During the conference, Greece and Cyprus also discussed the issue of Turkey, a neighbor with whom they have a number of disputes, including over energy exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek authorities banned demonstrations and large public gatherings across the capital for the one-day gathering.


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